Ourfamous Dead – I Am Human

Earlier in the year Leeds electronicore punk band Ourfamous Dead released their single Untitled Part 2 and it was clear from then on they were a band to closely watch and there was a definite keen anticipation for the next offering from the band. The I Am Human EP is the follow up to be released November  14th and brings more of their striking and eager mix of infectious hook fuelled electronic punk sounds, swimming in attitude and irrepressible melodies to excite and engage.

Since their formation in 2009 Ourfamous Dead have worked steadily and intently in defining their sound and laying down foundations with gigs around the UK. Earlier this year they started work on the songs that make up the rippling and exciting I Am Human EP, working to the point where their ever growing following and the rest of the country and beyond can fully immerse in the band’s contagious sound.

The four track EP though not flawless is an impressive and vibrant release showing a band confident in their sound and ability. There is also a good varied mix to the songs in style but also in attack which in some bands might suggest a confusion of direction but with this quintet it comes off as more evidence of their writing skills and assuredness in their music and ideas. 

Rate My Hate’ opens up the release bursting in with a hardcore attack over pulsating synths that wrap themselves around the ear. Defiant musically and from the shouts of AJ Reeves, the track bristles with attitude and aggression before midway switching to a mellower and softer attack, the vocals of Reeves and drummer Robin “Bobbyo” Speight uniting in a harmonious flow that changes the songs emphasis firmly though the drums and guitars still continue to strike hard. Though it does not detract from the song it feels like it is in two parts that though they work seamlessly are more effective in the angrier thrust of the start.

The opening slow notes of a piano bring ‘Untitled’ into view next but it only takes a few seconds before the track erupts into a great pop punk track showing a different and impressive side to the band. Though not as to the fore as on the opener the synths of Rich Jennings wonderfully play as a support to the driving bass pulse of Simon Green and the striking guitars of Callum “crabcore” Knight. Reminding of the likes of Drive A the song flooded with excited energy straight form their live shows, hits hard and fast. This is the EP’s strongest and most satisfying track.

The third track again changes the approach with a strong blend of expressive and coaxing synths alongside a direct and powerful attack from the rest of the band behind clean melodic vocals and gang chants. The song never takes off fully despite the eagerness of the band but nicely stays with a subdued and full sound.  ‘The Great And Inevitable (Change)‘ is in many ways the strongest song writing wise with its good amalgam of styles all laid in an enticing tapestry of melodic play.

Untitled Pt.2‘ completes the package, its swirling synths once more seeking every sense it can to play with. The song mixes in a heavier moment showing the band’s capability to work with aggression as well as sweetly flowing harmonies.

The flaws? Well to be fair flaws is the wrong word it is more down to personal taste. The band lay somewhere between Enter Shikari and My Passion in many ways but it is when they increase the intensity and aggression that they take a distinct step forward. They are far from the likes of The Browning in that way but a harder edge to their music does make the band even more impressive.

I Am Human is a great and thoroughly enjoyable release that is more than agreeable to the ear and shows the immense potential of  Ourfamous Dead for the future.

RingMaster 04/10/2011

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As You Drown – Rat King

If you get nothing else from listening to Rat King from Swedish death metal band As You Drown you will feel refreshed and lighter from its sonic enema of the senses. With the power of a blast furnace it strips away layers and layers with nine tracks of blistering ferocity to leave behind raw nerves and deeply satisfying numbness. This is not for anyone searching for wistful melodies or delightfully caressing melodies, As You Drown only deal with intensity of the most ferocious kind.

Formed in the fading weeks of 2003 and inspired by the atmosphere and simple structure of original death metal as much as the speed and relentless brutality of the modern evolution of the genre, the band released three demos (named Ethereal) before 2005 and then their debut album Reflection in 2009 after the settlement of the bands current line-up. As with their debut, Rat King finds a release via Metal Blade Records on October 11th and is sure to leave many more wasted but grinning bodies in its wake.  

The album was recorded in April of this year in the band’s own AYD Studio in Borås Sweden and then mixed and mastered by Plec (Watain, Scar Symmetry, Miseration) at Panic Room Studio in Skövde Sweden in July, the result a cascade and of titanic and monstrous riffs and punishing energy that the word ‘intense’ seems barely adequate for.  The album is apparently themed around the medieval German folk phenomena of rat kings and their association with plagues that ravaged European. This is something we without seeing the lyrics will trust them on as with a delivery as crushing and  barbaric as the sound there is never a moment where the vocals of Henrik Blomqvist are clear or remotely understandable. Do not take this as a negative though as it all adds to the impressive and unrelenting effect.

Musically the band is the epitome of raw power, bassist Robert Karlsson and drummer Martin Latvala bringing rhythms and aggression that breaks down any wall before them. From the opening track ‘Conqueror’ they pummel at the senses whilst the guitars of Mikael Åkerström and Simon Exner scythe away chunks of their own. Though not the strongest track on Rat King it is still a great and imposing opening to the album.

As the next track ‘Slaves To The Kingdom Of Fear’ takes over the bar is raised to never dip again throughout the whole release. Steam rolling drums, the incessant guitar battering and consuming guttural growls all grip hard and deeply. The opening two tracks are just the start of an intrusive and dehabilitating assault of sound that never lessens, not that one wants it to.

Each and every track is a beast but the incisive ‘You Should Be Paranoid’, the monstrous  ‘Rabid Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing’ that leaves one feeling like they have been decapitated by the lack of feeling in the skull after it leaves its mark, and ‘The Nothing’ which could not drill deeper if it was powered by a jack hammer, all are devastating attacks on the ear. Equally ferocious and intently vicious they stoke up the most primal feelings that eagerly welcome the assault.

By the time the album ends on the haunting and colossal savagery of the stunning ‘Cleansing Hands’ there is nothing left to give the album apart from a deep breath and to dive back into its evil depths. In truth there is nothing amazingly new about what As You Drown bring within Rat King but rarely is it done with such wonderfully devastating effect. The band has something extra that is hard to define but as it is so satisfying and unrelenting who cares, just enjoy  the punishment.

RingMaster 04/10/2011

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Sophie Barker – A Forest/ Say Goodbye

UK singer Sophie Barker has touched and satisfied hearts for over a decade through her stunning voice and songwriting within the substantial and impressive work with others or as a solo artist. With the electronica/downtempo band Zero 7 she sang on and co-wrote some of the band’s best loved songs like their biggest hit ‘Destiny’, and the likes of ‘In The Waiting Line’, ‘Passing By’ and ‘In Time’. Her work with The Egg co-writing the song ‘Walking Away’, legendary producer Grooverider on his debut album, with Groove Armada, and her work with The Rainbow Collection with whom she has recorded 3 albums of contemporary night-time music for children and set up The Rainbow Collections Children’s Foundation to build help raise money to rebuild a school in Kenya and help children in deprived areas worldwide, all steadily and firmly marked her out as a talented songwriter and musician.

To this fine list of course there are her own releases, her acclaimed debut solo album of 2005 Earthbound consisting of songs written whilst touring with Zero 7 and this year’s follow up Seagull via Ho Hum Records, both instilling Sophie Barker as one of the leading and essential singer songwriters in the world. Her new album was again awash with praise and positive attention, it’s instinctive, perceptive, and soulful songs touching deep within all feeling its passion and emotion. The AA-side single of ‘A Forest/ Say Goodbye’ released October 31st is the third taken from the album and epitomises Barker’s skill at bringing deep feelings and emotions all have felt into her songs to touch far beyond the ear as in ‘Say Goodbye’ or seeing and feeling the same connection elsewhere in songs as in the cover of the iconic song by The Cure ‘A Forest’.  

To be honest covers are not the favourite feast here as generally artists simply turn out a version of the original without giving it any distinct fingerprints of their own but ‘A Forest’ is not really a song that can be fiddled with and taken to different extremes without losing its emotive power and Barker has recognised this keeping its core intact whilst nurturing and caressing with sounds and touches to draw out the atmospheric and haunting claustrophobia it possesses. The pulsating and integral bass ‘heartbeat’ of the song is left to drive the song’s feeling and sound and to give the track it’s important darkness and alongside the guitars and expressive sounds the suffocating like feel is still as overwhelming as on the original. Vocally Barker sounds like Barbara Gogan of The Passions another contemporary band of The Cure at the time of the release of this track as a single, her expressive voice adding to the tension.

A Forest’ is a song musically and lyrically that can be interpreted in different ways but the underlying emotion and passion is distinct and powerful. Barker in reference to the song and ‘Say Goodbye’ commented “I felt that the two songs revealed perspective of love from two ends of the spectrum. The sweet, sad but light ‘Say Goodbye‘ voice to the deeper more edgy sharp sound of the voice in ‘A Forest‘ expressing two very parts of the same woman of the same soul both dealing with their fears, hopes, illusions and trying to find some peace once out of the emotional darkness. A cathartic dualistic musical relay!”

Say Goodbye’ is a gentler track but just as emotively powerful, bringing a personal involvement from not only the artist but the listener too. The song is clean and uncluttered with unnecessary cleverness musically or lyrically, something that is an impressive element of all her songwriting. The band around her is tight and more than capable of bringing the lyrical sentiment and intensity into the music and the song strikes with sincerity and understanding as well as passion.

The single is another fine example of why Sophie Barker is a torch for singer songwriters to follow as well as lovers of music that goes much further than simply touching the ears. There are few artists that manage to reach the depths within as well and consistently as she does, this and her album Seagulls the proof.

RingMaster 04/10/2011

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